Finding the writers’ group was not as easy as I had expected. I was not anticipating enough writers in a town of less than 13,000 people to support multiple writers’ groups.
Finding the online contact information for each group, I sent out numerous e-mails requesting information. I hoped that the information I requested might help me identify the group Crawford had mentioned. Find the group, find Crawford – and his alleged griffin – and find some answers about our mysterious young neighbor, Marisol, and her unique abilities. At least that was the plan.
Once I had sent the e-mails, I headed for the kitchen and some leftover vegetable soup.
* * *
I had not yet received a reply from any of the groups when Dragon emerged from her deep slumber a week later.
“You’re looking a lot better!” I smiled at the beautiful elf maiden, Dragon’s preferred guise. I pointed at the kettle boiling on the stove, and the cake server on the counter. “Tea and cake? It’s orange chiffon.”
“Yes, thank you. That sounds good.” She yawned and stretched. “Could we take our refreshments on the deck? Methinks I am in need of some fresh air.”
We were settled on the deck, sharing our snacks, when I saw Dragon stiffen.
Before Dragon could reply, the problem became evident. Our young neighbor, Marisol, skipped into view, rounding the corner of the house. She stopped and looked toward the back of the yard. Her shoulders slumped and her smile turned into a pout. Then she saw us on the deck, and she brightened again. “Hello!”
I returned her smile and waved. “Hello, Marisol. Does your mother know you’re here?”
The little girl hung her head and scuffed her shoe back and forth in the grass. “No. I came to see if the horses were back, but I see they’re still gone. Why did you send them away?” She gave Dragon an accusing look. “And why aren’t you a dragon anymore?”
Dragon lifted a delicate eyebrow at Marisol. “Was I ever a dragon?”
The child smiled. “Oh, yes, you were such a majestic dragon – all shiny scales, and sharp teeth and claws, and powerful wings! But you were so much prettier with red scales. When you had blue scales, you weren’t as shiny, and you had all those yucky smoke bubbles dripping from your nose.”
Dragon laughed “Your mother says you have a very wild and vivid imagination.”
Marisol frowned and glared at Dragon. “It’s not my imagination. You are a dragon, and there were horses here.”
“If you say so.” Dragon kept her tone light. “Would you like a piece of cake and a glass of milk?”
Marisol looked longingly at the cake. “I would, but I have to go home. Mommy will miss me soon and start looking for me.”
“Why didn’t you tell her you were coming to visit us?” I tilted my head and furrowed my brow. “I’m sure she wouldn’t mind, as long as she knew where you were. She just worries about your safety when you go off without telling her.”
The child shook her head. “She doesn’t want me coming here. She says she doesn’t want me being a bother.”
Dragon looked at Marisol. “It sounds as if you think your mother has another reason for not wanting you to come here, child.”
Marisol nodded and spoke somberly. “She’s worried about the things that happened here, when I said you were a dragon and when I saw the horses here.” The little girl heaved a huge sigh. “She thinks people are going to think I’m a witch. She worries that I might be a witch.”
“Are you?” Dragon’s tone was teasing, and she smiled warmly at the youngster.
“I don’t know. I guess I might be.” She turned and listened to something in the distance. “That’s my mommy calling me. I better go. Bye!”
And she was off, running toward the front of the house.
Dragon visibly relaxed once Marisol was out of sight. She sighed and drained her teacup in one swallow. “It takes much energy and control not to revert to my true form when Marisol is around me! We need to find out exactly what she is, and the precise nature and source of her ability, without delay. Have you had any luck tracking down the writers’ group of which Crawford spoke?”
“Not yet. I found a number of writers’ groups in the area, and I sent each an email soliciting information, but I’ve received no responses yet.” I poured us each another cup of tea.
Miles walked up behind us and joined the conversation as he snatched a piece of cake. “You’re talking about that guy who fixed the heat element in our rain gutters? The one who claims to have a griffin, and who told you about the writers’ group?” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/03/17/not-exactly-deja-vu-all-over-again/
Miles nibbled on the slice of cake and furrowed his brow. “Didn’t you say he told you they meet at a local coffee shop? Just call around until you find the shop that hosts their meetings.”
I blinked. “Why didn’t I think of that? Honey, you’re a genius!”
Miles grinned as he popped the last bite of cake in his mouth. “You’re my witness, Dragon!”
* * *
“When Crawford said the local coffee shop, I didn’t realize he meant it literally.” I pulled into the last open parking spot in front of a storefront sporting the name The Local Coffee Shoppe in huge red letters. After Miles suggested calling around to local coffee shops, I easily tracked down the location, day, and time for the writers’ group Lost in the Words.
Dragon and I entered the cafe and looked around. There was a good crowd in the small bistro, but most patrons were sitting alone, or in groups of two or three. I didn’t see anything that looked like a writers’ group.
At the counter we ordered some beverages – a spiced tea for Dragon, and a hot chocolate for me – and asked about the meeting. The barista directed us to a large alcove I hadn’t noticed, where a diverse group of ten people were sipping beverages and shuffling papers around the surface of the tables they had pushed together.
I scanned the group and found Crawford. Looking at the others, I figured Crawford to be the oldest, somewhere between retiree and ancient. He was talking to a younger guy sitting next to him, well-groomed with a welcoming smile and intense eyes. The others – four more men and four women – ran the spectrum of age and styles from a matronly woman in a vintage dress and necklace and an older man with small, rectangular glasses and a bowtie, to a 20-something geek in sweats and several people in business attire.
Crawford looked up, and a big smile lit up his face. “Mrs. Tesch!” He came forward and gave me a warm handshake. “How nice to see you! And Dra . . .”
Dragon quickly extended her hand. “I’m Dray. Nice to meet you.” She and Crawford seemed to exchange sly smiles as they shook hands, but the moment passed so quickly, I couldn’t be sure.
Crawford turned back to me. “So, are you here for the meeting?”
I nodded. “I remembered you mentioning the writer’s group, and I thought I’d come check it out. And, please, call me Marge.”
“Okay, Marge, is there anything specific you need help with?” He ushered us to the table.
“Yes, something involving magic.”
“You should have called and informed us you would be in attendance.” The bow-tied gentleman glowered. “The agenda for today’s meeting is already set.”
“Chill, Arthur!” Crawford scoffed. “Marge and her friend can sit in, and if there’s time at the end of the meeting, we can discuss her problem.”
The young man with whom Crawford had been speaking earlier smiled at Dragon. “Indeed, and if there isn’t any time left, some of us would be glad to stay after the meeting and discuss things.”
Dragon blushed prettily and inclined her head toward the young man as she took a seat next to him and I sat next to Crawford.
Arthur clapped his hands to get everyone’s attention. “This meeting of the Waconia chapter of Lost in the Words is hereby called to order. Since we have . . . guests . . . in attendance,” Arthur sneered in the general direction of Dragon and me, “we need to introduce ourselves – name, genre, publishing credits only. Let’s not waste time.” Looking around the group, he pointed to the matronly woman. “Lavinia, start, please, then clockwise around the table.”
Moving around the table, each member of the group gave a quick introduction. The group was as diverse in writing as in age and dress. Their work represented a wide variety of genres – sci-fi, romance, mystery, true crime, poetry, biography, history, science, education – and there were four fantasy writers in the group. I was very impressed. I was sure Dragon and I would find some answers here.
“Now that that’s done, let’s get down to work.” Arthur fixed one of the writers with a contemptuous look. “I hope you’re more prepared this week, Didi. Do you have your handouts?”
Didi glared at Arthur but passed out some papers to everyone. “This is an excerpt from chapter three of my manuscript. I’m sorry, I didn’t know there would be guests. There’s not enough for everyone.”
“No problem, Didi.” Crawford smiled. He shared his pages with me, and Griff and Dragon moved their chairs a little closer so they could share.
I was appalled at the work Didi had chosen to share, full of misspellings, grammatical errors, dull characters, and stilted dialog. Still, I was shocked at Arthur, who tossed the pages back at her and said, “You’re really wasting our time here. There are so many problems with this, it would take us the next ten meetings to discuss them.” He pointed at the matronly lady, and asked, “Are you prepared, Lavinia?”
“I am. This is from my latest romance.”
As I read through the pages she shared, I was amazed at her talent. Everyone gave her good feedback on the excerpt, complimenting her choice of words and her pacing. Then Arthur tore it apart, nit-picking every detail. To hear him dissect Lavinia’s words, one would think her writing was little better than Didi’s.
The meeting went on in that same vein for the better part of two hours. Six of the ten writers shared their works-in-progress, and each in turn got good, helpful feedback and constructive criticism from the group before Arthur took his verbal scalpel and destroyed their work.
When he was finished dissecting Crawford’s work, he looked at his watch. “Well, I guess we have a few minutes before the meeting ends. I understand you have a work you’d like critiqued?” Arthur glared at me.
“Actually, I didn’t bring my work-in-progress. I’m . . .”
Arthur started to interrupt, but Crawford cut him off. “I think Marge said she was having a problem with magic. Why not let her explain and maybe someone here can help her work it out.”
Arthur turned beet-red when Crawford cut him off, and now he sat glowering at me. “Well? What is your problem? Or are you unable to articulate the issue?”
I glared at Arthur, then turned to the group. “In a nutshell, I have a character who has magic, but is not a magician. She sees through spells of concealment, and she sees the true nature of any person or creature who has shapeshifted to another form. She can also cause others to see what she sees just by telling them what she sees. But she is unaware that she has any magical talent. What I need is some sort of label for her and her ability. She’s not a witch, she’s not a sorceress. She cannot create illusions, she cannot conjure, she cannot enchant, she cannot cast any sort of spell. What is she, and what would you call her power?”
The matronly Lavinia wrinkled her brow. “This is fascinating, but out of my wheelhouse. Robaire, SueZ, Crawford, Griff, you all write fantasy. Maybe you could help our guest.”
Robaire waved his hand dismissively. “It’s your story. You can call your character and her ability anything you want.”
I frowned. “I was hoping that someone might have encountered this sort of magic before.”
SueZ laughed. “You make it sound as if it were real. How could we have encountered something you are creating for your story?”
I gave her a rueful smile. “Of course, I meant maybe you had encountered it in a book. Maybe someone else has written about such a person, such a magic power, and that writer gave it a name.”
SueZ shook her head. “No, sorry, I don’t remember anything like that in the books I’ve read.”
Crawford and Griff likewise had no knowledge of such power.
“This is so ridiculous!” Arthur scowled. “As Robaire stated, it is your book. You need to formulate the rules of the magic system and name it and its practitioners. If you can’t do that without an advisory board, maybe you shouldn’t be a writer.” He gave me a disgusted look, the type of look one might give something on the bottom of their shoe. “You are a writer, aren’t you? You have been published? Or are you just another pathetic wannabe, like Didi there?” He jutted his chin toward the humiliated Didi, who glared back at him.
“I have not yet had a book published, but I have a good number of articles, poems, and short-stories published, including two stories in an anthology.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/12/02/its-here/
Arthur scoffed, but I continued. “And I’m sure there was a time in each writer’s life – even yours – when they were as inexperienced and unpublished as Didi. That doesn’t make them pathetic.”
Arthur turned beet-red again, and stood there opening and closing his mouth, but no sound came out. He looked like a fish gasping for air.
I turned away from him and addressed the rest of the group. “It was nice meeting everyone today. Thank you all for your input. I appreciate your time.”
Arthur couldn’t seem to leave fast enough, but the other writers came over and said a few words before departing. Didi looked as if she was going to kiss my hand. Instead, she just mumbled a heart-felt “Thank you!”
After the others left, Crawford invited me and Dragon to stay for another round of beverages with him and Griff. He leaned toward me and lowered his voice. “Griff and I may know someone who can help you.”
Who does Crawford know? Is it another fantasy writer? Be sure to come back next week and see if we can get any further identifying what Marisol is and whence she gets her power. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.